Business Continuity – it’s not just for the big boys who can afford the big toys
For anyone with roots along the Gulf Coast - if have learned anything through the years, it’s that the impacts of weather can frequently far exceed expectations. For those of us who have been impacted by these tropical systems, it is not uncommon to refer to the storms by name as a kind of mile stone. “Yeah, after Betsy we had to” … or “during Camille”… and all too frequently “well with Katrina ….”. This year’s entry into the short hand will be Debbie. Although barely a Tropical Storm, she has lingered along the northern Gulf of Mexico for the better part of a week, dumping record amounts of rainfall in Alabama and Florida – and that’s saying something. This flooding has had significant impact upon ground transport in the area; impeding the local distribution of commodities, freight deliveries, and the ability of people to get from A to B.
You may ask yourself - why is this a Business Continuity Planning issue? Increasingly medium and large manufacturers have adopted “just in time” supply chain practices to better be able to respond to the need for lean operations – it’s far cheaper to store a day’s or a week’s work of components that to have a 90 day supply on hand. But you have to ask yourself – how do we deal with circumstances that close road and rail travel in our area for a week or more? Do we have an alternate work site that we could use? Do we have an alternate supply chain? Can we afford to be idle for the duration? Most importantly, what about personnel? If the facility is fine, but no one can get here, what can we do?
For manufacturing, getting the materials and the skilled folks together is a prerequisite, but increasingly for knowledge workers this not as much of an issue as it might have been previously. There are a dizzy array of products and services available that make getting the people and the information they need together simpler, and safer than ever. Be it some cloud based solution, or more traditional network based remote access solutions – the requirement for people to be sharing a physical space in order to remain productive has been less and less of an issue as more and more options for collaboration and remote presence have become available.
Important disclaimer: This is not an endorsement of any particular product or service – just an observation about the commoditization of a particular set of products and services. Many SOHO, or “Small office/Home office” networking appliances are approaching the functionality of the enterprise products of just a few years ago. With SSL VPN support for up to 25 concurrent users becoming common in this group of products even a one person IT shop supporting 10 or 20 users could stand up a secure remote access solution for under $200. For non-sensitive communications, some shops could leverage free (or nearly free) cloud based offerings - such as Google docs, and Google hang outs, etc. By keeping an open mind, and encouraging the creative use of emerging technologies we can often find low or no cost solutions to bridge those gaps in our Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity planning.
Stay agile and stay alive. Even if you find yourself in a small shop, there are increasingly powerful tools available to you.